Voting Deliberatively: FDR and the 1936 Presidential Campaign

Hardcover | April 20, 2015

byMary E. Stuckey

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The 1932 election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt seemed to hold the promise of Democratic domination for years to come. However, leading up to the 1936 election, persistent economic problems, a controversial domestic agenda, and the perception of a weak foreign policy were chipping away at public support. The president faced unrelenting criticism from both the Left and the Right, and it seemed unlikely that he would cruise to the same clear victory he enjoyed in 1932. But 1936 was yet another landslide win for FDR, which makes it easy to forget just how contested the campaign was. In Voting Deliberatively, Mary Stuckey examines little-discussed components of FDR’s 1936 campaign that aided his victory. She reveals four elements of this reelection campaign that have not received adequate attention: the creation of public opinion, the attention paid to local organizations, the focus on specific kinds of interests, and the public rhetoric that tied it all together. Previous studies of the 1936 presidential election discuss elements such as FDR’s vulnerability before the campaign and the weakness of Republican candidate Alf Landon. But these histories pay little attention to the quantity and quality of information Roosevelt acquired, the importance of organizations such as the Good Neighbor League and the Committee of One, the mobilization of the vote, and the ways in which these organizational strategies fused with Roosevelt’s rhetorical strategies. Stuckey shows how these facets combined in one of the largest victories in Electoral College history and provided a template for future victory.

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The 1932 election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt seemed to hold the promise of Democratic domination for years to come. However, leading up to the 1936 election, persistent economic problems, a controversial domestic agenda, and the perception of a weak foreign policy were chipping away at public support. The president faced unrelenting ...

Mary E. Stuckey is Professor of Communication and Political Science at Georgia State University.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:168 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:April 20, 2015Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271066474

ISBN - 13:9780271066479

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Roosevelt and the 1936 Election 1

1 Creating Public Opinion, Muting the Public’s Voice

2 Empowering the Public, Privileging the Candidate

3 Mobilizing the Vote, Containing the Public 66

4 Speaking for the Public, Empowering the Presidency

Conclusion: The Mass Public and the Presidency

Notes 123 Bibliography 143 Index 151

Editorial Reviews

“Mary Stuckey’s Voting Deliberatively: FDR and the 1936 Presidential Campaign demonstrates that the roots of many common practices that define both presidential campaigns and the ‘rhetorical presidency’ can be traced to the groundbreaking campaign of Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. Stuckey argues persuasively that the use of polling practices in 1936 set the stage for a redefinition of our understanding of the role of the public. While Roosevelt’s use of multiple means of measuring public opinion, including the then-new technology of polling, helped him overcome strident opposition, the new methods also set the stage for modern campaigns in which public opinion is reduced to a set of data points. Stuckey documents the successful efforts of the Roosevelt campaign to mobilize voters through the creation of organizations focused on the campaign and the candidate—as well as the president’s skillful appeals to various special interests in building the New Deal coalition, a political powerhouse for almost half a century. She also demonstrates that Roosevelt used his message to create a personal coalition, a result that was politically powerful but also led voters to focus on the candidate rather than the underlying ideology.”—Robert C. Rowland, University of Kansas